Thursday, April 2, 2009

The History of Eugenics in North Carolina

In North Carolina over 7,600 people were sterilized between 1929 and 1974 under the state’s Eugenics Sterilization Program. Indiana was the first state to implement such a program, and eventually over 30 states followed suit, including North Carolina in 1929. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina reviewed petitions for sterilizations and authorized sterilizations in over 90% of cases. Of those sterilized, approximately 38% were black and 84% were female; moreover, 71% were classified as “feebleminded.” While most states’ sterilization programs diminished in scope after World War II, almost 80% of North Carolina’s cases occurred after 1945. By the late 1960’s over 60% of those sterilized in North Carolina were black and 99% were female.

North Carolina Governor Michael Easley established a committee to investigate the state’s Eugenics Sterilization Program, and currently the General Assembly of North Carolina is considering two bills: House Bill 21, Eugenics Program – Support and Education and Senate Bill 179, Sterilization Compensation.

House Bill 21 is: “An act to provide counseling benefits to eugenics survivors, to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a database of eugenics program participants and verify the status of persons contacting the state to determine their participation in the state program, to erect a historical marker about the program, to direct the State Board of Education to include information about the program in its K-12 history curriculum, to recommend creation of an ethics training module for state, county, and local government employees, and to direct the Department of Cultural Resources to digitize existing records for preservation and study purposes, as recommended by the House Select Committee on Compensation for Victims of the Eugenics Sterilization.”

Senate Bill 179
proposes that: “Any person who, as a result of the eugenic sterilization program in this State, was sterilized between the years of 1929 and 1975 shall receive compensation as provided for in this section if the person submits a claim before June 30, 2012."

The current status of both bills, as for any pending legislation, can be tracked online at the web site of the General Assembly of North Carolina: House Bill 21 and Senate Bill 179.

Readers interested in learning more about this topic can visit Eugenics in North Carolina, a web project of the State Library of North Carolina. The Winston-Salem Journal also has an online eugenics project, entitled Against Their Will: North Carolina’s Sterilization Program.

In addition, Special Collections at UNC Health Sciences Library, in collaboration with the Carolina Digital Library and Archive, has digitized all volumes of the Biennial Report of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina [1934-1966], as well as North Carolina journals and documents in public health and other areas as part of an ongoing digital initiative.

No comments: